Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

Thanks to the people who regularly visit my site and keep me from feeling like I'm talking to a wall. My New Year's resolution is to get this site automated so it will be a lot more active and vibrant for you. Typically, every New Year's Eve I try to watch a handful of classic films that I've never seen but know will be great. Haven't made my final choice yet, but I'm thinking of "Spirit of the Beehive," "A Canterbury Tale," "What Ever Happend to Baby Jane?" and/or "The Lost Patrol." Take care.

James Hunter, Et Al

Saw James Hunter at BB King's Saturday night. This is the fourth (?) time I've seen him and Hunter is always fun. This still wasn't the ideal concert. I want a smaller club, a cooler audience and I want to stand close (I was against the bar in the back). But he really is a terrific showman. Also this weekend saw "Curse of the Golden Flower" (a very disappointing spectacle; you'd be much better off renting "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), "Little Children" (which I was nonplussed by and which my friend convincingly hated -- by convincingly, I mean his dissection of it was on-target); and "Pan's Labyrinth," which held up for me very well and will definitely make my best of the year list." It's very grim, I should say, and not for kids.

Weekend Box Office Predictions

Box Office Prophets looks at this weekend, based on the Friday numbers. Keep in mind, this doesn't include Monday, which typically will be a huge day at the movies, while Sunday should be dead. I think the first big test for "Dreamgirls" will come NEXT weekend. Let's see how it holds up then.

Whither Mike Myers?

The NYTimes treats Mike Myers absence from new movies as if he were akin to Stanley Kubrick or Terrence Malick. I wouldn't mind if Myers had made more good movies, but his record is very spotty, to say the least. "Wayne's World" and "Austin Powers" are his sole claims to fame at the movies so far. And in a typically lazy comparison, the NYTimes insists that the Austin Powers franchise rivaled "X-Men" and "Lord of the Rings." Not even close. The two Austin Powers sequels grossed $300 million worldwide each, roughly. (The first was a a $53 million surprise and a smash on DVD.) The "X-Men" movies grossed $300 million, then $400 million then $450 million worldwide. That's 50% more, quite a lot when you're talking about a $150 million difference. And "LOTR?" That's an ENTIRELY different playing field, with $860 million, $920 million and $1.1 BILLION per movie worldwide. Austin Powers is not even remotely comparable to that. "Shrek" is a much bigger franchise, but -- despite the NYTimes implication that Myers insisted those slackers involved with the movie do a better job on his character, he has no creative involvement on the script or anything else other than providing his voice. The franchises I would compare to Austin Powers? Maybe "Rush Hour" or the Bourne movies.

Bono Bored With Making Great Music

Bono tells the BBC he wants to take U2 to "the next level." Uh, what level is there after "biggest band in the world?" More worrying, he says he's bored with the classic U2 sound they've returned to with their critically acclaimed, Grammy-winning, smahs-hit comeback albums "All That You Can't Leave Behind" and "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb." It took a long time for Bono to accept that anthemic rock was what U2 did best -- some stiff backbone from the Edge helped; when he started playing that ringing guitar sound on "Leave Behind" and Bono jumped all over it as unacceptable because it sounded too much like U2, Edge stared him down. Now apparently, he's bored again. An acoustic, perhaps bluesy sound certainly doesn't worry me. But running scared from what you do best does.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Indiana Jones Script Is Ready

On Friday, George Lucas told the Associated Press that a script for the fourth Indiana Jones movie is finally done and that both he and Steven Spielberg have signed off on it. Harrison Ford of course is ready for one more go. Lucas says the film will come out in May 2008. This is the first time any of the principals involved have said the script is done and approved so maybe...maybe it's actually going to move forward. God willing, it will lose the wholesome family tone of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" and just try to top the original, which obviously is one of the great adventure films of all time (and the first movie I ever saw twice in the theater in the same week).

"Dreamgirls" Hits False Note At Box Office

Box Office Prophets has spent the week exploring how movies behave between Christmas and New Year's, a strange atypical week in which almost every day feels like a Friday at the box office because everyone is off from work and going to the movies in a mad frenzy. (I saw two today myself, both disappointing -- Curse of the Golden Flower and Little Children). "Dreamgirls" was always going to behave differently because it only opened on Monday, Christmas Day, with huge pent-up demand and is clearly more of a nighttime drama than an any time of the day comedy. But with all those caveats and even ignoring the opening numbers on Monday, from Tuesday to Thursday "Dreamgirls" has had the steepest drop of any movie in the Top 10 percentage-wise. Given the rave reviews, numerous nominations and easy accessability, this should NOT be happening. It's at $23 million after Thursday and this weekend will demonstrate how word of mouth is working. Hopefully, it can lay low on 800+ screens until Oscar nominations give it a boost. $100 million is looking awfully far in the distance right now, but it should play for a long time with all those Oscar boosts, assuming the bottom doesn't fall out. That might actually help it at the Oscars. "Dreamgirls" just went from looking inevitable to a likable underdog.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Go To The Movies!

Don't say they don't make 'em like they used to. The theaters are bursting with good to great movies right now. Currently showing in NYC and worth a look in no particular order:

Pan's Labyrinth
Letters From Iwo Jima
the Woody Allen retro at Film Forum
The US Versus John Lennon
Casino Royale
The Dead Girl
Children Of Men
51 Birch Street
Curse of the Golden Flower
The Good Shepherd
The Last King of Scotland
Little Children
The Painted Veil
The Pursuit of Happyness
The Queen (just for Mirren; it's not on my Ten best list by any means)

I'm off. Enjoy the weekend.

"Star Wars" Dominates Rose Parade

George Lucas is the Grand Marshall, he's got geeks who love to dress up as Storm Troopers flying in from all over the country appearing and two floats celebrate his worst ideas: the Ewoks and the planet Naboo. One bizarre comment at the end of the piece insists this daytime spectacle will be seen on TV by 30 million people. Huh? That would make it the number one show of the week if it were seen in primetime, PLUS viewing levels are depressed during the holidays. No idea where they got that figure from, but the ratings won't be even close to that.

Bad News For Broadway: Record Box Office

Why is a record box office bad news for Broadway? Because it came at a terrible price. Broadway's box office is hitting $900 million in 2006. But attendance is down. How'd they do that? Rising ticket prices of course. $110 was just an idea one year ago. Now it's the standard top price. And that Variety story I linked to only hints at the worst trend: premium ticket prices. $110 isn't the top price on Broadway. Not even close. If you want GOOD seats, you're going to pay $150, $200, $250 or even $300 for a Friday or Saturday night show. This isn't via a ticket broker or scalper. This is at the box office, where anyone who wants to pay a mere $110 for their seat better be buying a ticket eight months in advance. In fact, I spent much of this year trying to buy tickets for friends at least six months in advance and could find NOTHING for show after show. If I wanted to pay $250, I could have bought a ticket for that weekend though. This is a poisonous, terrible trend. People ready to pay what they think is the top price -- a very expensive $110 -- will find out again and again that tickets for good seats at the top shows simply aren't available unless you're planning a year in advance. Broadway is making it IMPOSSIBLE for people to go to the theater regularly, the way they do in London. And what kid is going to discover Broadway at those prices? People have been decrying the end of Broadway for many years of course. Broadway isn't going anywhere. Neither is opera. But when was the last time a regular Joe went to the opera? That's exactly what is happening to Broadway. It's becoming the sole province of the super-rich and insiders. Only tourists going to the same four or five mega-shows ("Wicked," "The Lion King," "The Color Purple") keep them running. New Yorkers going to the theater for fun the way others go to a movie? Good luck.

Hollywood Is Doing Just Fine, Thank You

Every time the box office doesn't hit a new high, someone yells out that the industry is doing and no one is ever going to go to the movies again. Then, when DVDs failed to maintain its explosive growth last year for the first time, instead of seeing this as a natural development in a maturing category, everyone screamed that the DVD market was dead. And when typical blockbusters now cost $150 mil to $200 mil (at least), everyone screamed that midrange movies were deader than dead. As you might have guessed, everyone was wrong. Movie attendance (and certainly the box office) are just under $10 billion. One of the big reasons were modestly budgeted midrange hits like "The Devil Wears Prada." All you needed to have a good year in DVDs were some solid hits and reissues like "The Little Mermaid." Always keep in mind that the main revenue from movies 25 years ago was the box office. Period. VHS was just growing (and nowhere near today's levels), VOD a dream and HBO and Showtime gave you a few bucks at the end. That was it. Now, with DVD bringing in TWICE as much as the box office, with the overseas market BIGGER than the domestic one (overseas was often an afterthough for a movie's profitability), and VOD and digital downloads and other sources of revenue multiplying, the total gross for movies in all these categories is massively bigger than it was in 1980. So what if the box office stays around $10 billion? Out of nowhere, you're getting $18 billion from DVD (and the overseas market for that is growing too), another $10 billion overseas from that box office and on and on. Movies are far more profitable than ever.

Next Winter/Spring On Broadway

A quick sneak peek at the upcoming shows on Broadway from the NY Daily News. There's a lot I'm eagerly awaiting, from "Frost/Nixon" to Angela Lansbury's first time on Broadway in more than 20 years (and as a retired tennis pro, no less). Now if I could just get a job as a critic somewhere, I could see EVERYTHING for free.

Don't Miss "Pan's Labyrinth"

Two notable new films opening today: "The Dead Girl" is a somber, interesting, pretty good followup to "Blue Car" with a solid cast. It all revolves around the body of a dead girl apparently slaughtered by a serial killer. But the real gem is "Pan's Labyrinth," which I first saw and loved at Cannes. (It was the last movie I saw there -- usually, the final day or two is filled with odds and ends so it was a very pleasant surprise.) I'm not a big fan of the director (Del Toro), but I'm a sucker for fairy tales and this dark story set in fascist Spain is unique and gripping (and definitely not for kiddies).

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Enjoy Your Popsurfing

I'm off to visit with the Dolsons, in town for the holidays, get my mail and then see August Wilson's play "Two Trains Running" at the Signature Theatre.

UK Postal Service Preparing For Harry Potter

The Royal Mail is already meeting with retailers to map out a strategy for delivery of the final volume in the Harry Potter series. It has a title -- "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- but no release date yet. Apparently, a new Harry Potter book turns into the busiest day of the year, excepting Christmas. People keep talking about Harry possibly dying but I don't think JK Rowling has it in her to kill off Harry. All the previous deaths have been minor, secondary characters until Dumbledore and even he may not be really dead. If she finds the gumption to kill off Ron or Hermione, I'd be surprised. But Harry? Harry sacrificing himself to defeat Voldemort would be a grand finale but doesn't seem to follow in the spirit of the books which are not so much epic struggles about defeating evil but a journey of growth and confidence for our heroes.

Billboard's Top 10 Singles

It's a banner year for Beyonce, who has the biggest hit in the country for the fourth week in a row, a movie opening to raves and excellent box office and the highest debuting single with "Listen," a song she co-wrote for the movie "Dreamgirls" that also appears on her latest album. Come February, Jennifer Hudson will win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, but Beyonce will have a great night too: she'll look smashing, get to perform "Listen" to a worldwide audience and blow us away and then she'll get her own Oscar for Best Song to boot. The Top 10, per Billboard:

1. Beyonce -- Irresistible
2. Akon featuring Snoop Dogg -- I Wanna Love You
3. Fergie -- Fergalicious
4. Akon featuring Eminem -- Smack That
5. Justin Timberlake featuring T.I. -- My Love
6. Nelly Furtado -- Say It Right
7. The Fray -- How To Save Life
8. Jim Jones -- We Fly High
9. Bow Wow featuring Chris Brown and Johnta Austin -- Shortie Like Me
10. Hinder -- Lips Of An Angel

"Chldren Of Men" -- The Book Vs Movie

I just watched director Alfonso Cuaron's very entertaining debut film -- "Solo Con Tu Pareja" -- on DVD last night, so I'm primed to see his new film "Children Of Men." I don't expect great things given the reviews that are all over the place, but it should be interesting. The NYTimes has a piece comparing the book by PD James to the film. I haven't read the piece closely since I haven't read the book OR seen the film and don't want to spoil either. But one passage caught my eye: writer Caryn James says "“The Children of Men” is not another of Ms. James’s famed detective novels, and it is not, as it has sometimes sloppily been described, science fiction." What is sloppy about calling it science-fiction? The book -- first published in 1992, I believe -- is set in the year 2021. The film seems to have pushed that forward to 2027. Everyone refers to the novel as a dystopian tale, which is certainly a form of sci-fi. How could any book set decades in the future be anything but science-fiction, regardless of its plot or conceits (even a romance set in the countryside would be sci-fi if the author tells us it is taking place in 2354, surely. And "Children of Men" is classic sci-fi in using a setting of the future to explore urgent issues of today. Does James think sci-fi is a banal, secondary genre? That would be bizarre, since she's discussing P.D. James, an author who has won acclaim for writing detective novels. I thought the days of dismissing sci-fi were long past, but I guess we'll have to wait till at least 2021 for that to happen.

Beatles Cover Art Become UK Stamps

Fitting. The six albums being turned into stamps include "Sgt. Pepper," "Revolver," "With The Beatles," "Help" (a bit dodgy, that pick -- why not "Rubber Soul" or "Yellow Submarine" or "Beatles For Sale" or "A Hard Day's Night"? The only worse album cover is the ugly one for "Magical Mystery Tour"), and their most imitated cover: "Abbey Road." (How many times has that image of them crossing the road been duplicated?) Their second most influential album cover, unsurprisingly, was NOT chosen either: "The White Album." Which cover is your favorite?

"Doctor Who" Is Quitting

Or maybe not. The BBC reported that the current Doctor David Tennant will be stepping down in the middle of the fourth series. The Evening Standard even reports on the people the BBC is eyeing to replace him. But then the BBC said he wasn't leaving and discounted the rumors as coming from the Sun tabloid. Or more accurately, they said that he was only doing the third series now and it was too soon to say anything about the fourth series. I hoipe Tennant sticks around: Tom Baker was the Doctor for seven years and some 170+ episodes. Seeing the Doctor change every two years would get exhausting.

Tuesday's Box Office -- "Museum" Still Strong

Between Christmas and New Year's, almost every weekday plays like a Friday night at the movies, per Box Office Prophets. So every day has crucial news about what movies are doing well with audiences. "Dreamgirls" opened Monday so its modest Tuesday drop isn't that telling. We'll know better by next weekend how that film is doing so far. Here are the top grossers of the day, per The Numbers.


1. Night At The Museum -- $13.5 million ($55.7 million total)
2. The Pursuit Of Happyness -- $7.1 million ($67.9 million total)
3. Dreamgirls -- $5.8 million ($15.3 million total)
4. Rocky Balboa -- $4.5 million ($35.2 million total)
5. The Good Shepherd -- $4.1 million ($18.2 million total)
6. Charlotte's Web -- $3.8 million ($32.2 million)
7. Eragon -- $3 million ($42.8 million total)
8. We Are...Marshall -- $2.8 million ($12.5 million total)
9. Happy Feet -- $2.4 million ($162.9 million total)
10. The Holiday -- $2.2 million ($39.2 million total)

iTunes Overwhelmed After Christmas

Did you have any problems with iTunes? Apparently, the website couldn't handle the crush of people who wanted to download digital singles after getting iPods and gift certificates for Christmas. I was actually helping my sister-in-law set up her new iPod by downloading software (which went smoothly) but we were ripping CDs and putting them on her iPod and didn't try to buy any songs.

Typically Defensive Mel Gibson

Speaking to the UK press for the opening of "Apocalypto," Gibson has no idea how out there he is. I'm glad they don't wrongly call Gibson a devout Catholic when referencing his religious beliefs (in fact, Gibson broke with the Catholic Church because it's not conservative enough). But calling "Apocalypto" a hit is not exactly right. It's doing great business for a foreign launguage film, but while Gibson opened the film with his name it has ground to a halt pretty quickly. If it cost $70 million, he'll probably break even when all is said and done, thanks to DVD, etc. It won't be a flop, but it's hardly a hit and nowhere near "The Passion of the Christ" of course. (Almost nothing is, of course.)

More Gov't Suppression Of War Reporting

Not Bush and Iraq. This goes back to World War II and a reporter's coverage of the devastation at Nagasaki. Nothing scares the government more than describing and showing the actual horrors of war. Probably because people are far less likely to accept going to war except under the most dire circumstances when they see its costs. And in the case of Nagasaki (where war with Japan was inevitable), the government knows people would be wary of weapons of mass destruction that target innocent civilians.

The Best Songs Of The Year

According to one critic for the Times of London. Useful since it includes links to a bunch of videos. I've been a big fan of the craftily catchy "Stand Still" by Grace since it came out in November. No album yet but I am seriously primed.

"Grease" Is The New Word In Reality TV

Plans continue for a reality show to find the new leads for a Broadway revival of "Grease." In the UK, Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Ian have been named the most powerful men in the theatrical world for their stunt of doing a reality show to find a Maria for a revival of "The Sound Of Music." I'd thought Webber clamped down on the "Grease" revival show (since it was such a blatant copy of his idea for "Sound Of Music") or at least got a piece of the pie, but the BBC says he and Ian have gone their own way. Webber's next reality show? Finding a new star for "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." You'll know this trend has gone to far when they try to cast "Hamlet" this way. The only thing worse than hearing a million little tykes belt out "Tomorrow" for "Annie" would be hearing young men mumble their way through "To be or not to be...."

Spike Lee Making James Brown Film

That didn't take long, but in fact it's been in the works for a few years. No hint on what era they're going to focus on. Hopefully it will be the early years when James Brown risked every penny he had to record a live album (a bizarre conceit at the time) called "James Brown Live At The Apollo" and scored an earth-shaking hit, folowed perhaps by his burgeoning social consciousness. I have no interest in a movie showing the aging Brown being chased by police or being arrested on angel dust or whatever. Another spiral down and redemption flick just bores me. Meanwhile, thousands (if not tens of thousands) of fans are lining up in Harlem to pay tribute to Brown by saying goodbye to the Godfather of Soul at the Apollo. I'd go up to check out the scene but it looks really crowded and waiting in line for ten hours is out of the question for me.

A Playboy Bedside Companion?

Makes perfect sense to me. Men have been keeping Playboy by their bedside for years. However, when I read the review I realized this was a collection of short stories and cartoons and other odds and ends. I assumed it would be a collection of Playboy's famed interviews. Aren't they collecting those in book form? Turns out Playboy is in the midst of a multi-volume retrospective of its interviews, with the next book coming out in February. Maybe some people did get the magazine for the articles after all.

Paul McCartney Making A Musical

The good news is the show will be based on his childhood. More good news: McCartney is in top creative form thanks to his best album in years "Chaos and Creation." (His best since "Tug Of War" in my book.) The bad news? It's drawing on his classical piece "The Liverpool Oratorio." Whatever one may think of that work, we want a West End musical that draws on new Paul McCartney songs, not a classical piece. The closest we'll get to that is Elton John's terrific score for "Billy Elliot," which should come to Broadway in 2007.

Overnight TV Ratings: "Friday Night Lights" Dimming Again

NBC seems determined to throw away the best new show of the season (not to mention a show filled with a young, sexy, highly promotable cast). That "Friday Night Lights" marathon of repeats during the worst week of TV viewing in the year was a predictable failure, per MediaWeek's Marc Berman. I haven't been following the daily ratings because we're in repeat mode right now. But slapping these shows on the air (after moving "FNL" from Tuesday to Monday to Wednesday) just makes the show look weak.

Those "Happy Feet" Were Savion Glover's

The NYTImes is absolutely right on this: Savion Glover's credit for doing the main dancing in the animated smash "Happy Feet" should have been much more prominent. I missed this one; Glover's dancing is so distinctive I was reminded constantly throughout the movie of his presence. But indeed the closing credits should have featured him right up front. Meanwhile, I don't know why I didn't assume this, but a sequel is apparently inevitable. Knowing what director George Miller did with the sequel to "Babe" (a sequel I loved, by the way), I'd expect wholesale slaughter of the penguins to be the first act.

Captain Jack Harkness Gets Married

And not "married," thank you very much, but married. Captain Jack Harkness is the dashing bisexual character from the new series of "Doctor Who." He's played by dashing gay actor John Barrowman who my sister Leslie wanted to date after seeing him in a West End revival of Cole Porter's "Anything Goes." A very funny, talented man, Barrowman and architect Scott Gill signed a civil partnership in the UK. Then Barrowman went off to perform in the "panto" Jack and The Beanstalk. (The "panto" is family theater, complete with hissable villains and typical holiday fare.) Barrowman and Gill have been together for 16 years, which is already longer than most marriages, isn't it?

World's Oldest Punk Rocker Is Dead

Sadly, not of a drug overdose or choking on his own vomit. But 80 year old Joseph Zak got a proper sendoff from the punk band Team Spider that he supplied lyrics to -- they held a concert and thrashed out his songs.

Dot Dot Dot Dash Dash Dash Dot Dot Dot

Morse Code moves one step closer to oblivion. Heck, in a world where there are no telegrams, why would Morse Code stick around?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"Friday Night Lights" Marathon

When will it air? Fridays? Nope. Tuesdays, where it aired for most of the fall? Nope. Mondays, where it did better when thrown onto the schedule than the flailing "Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip?" Nope. It's gonna air tonight, Wednesday, the show's new home when original episodes air in January. Gee, I'm sure it'll trounce "American Idol." NBC is showing three episodes tonight and if you're looking for a quick and easy way to catch up without spending money on iTunes, start here. The show has remained terrific and really delivered on the promise of it's pilot with a fun, soap-y drama filled with terrific actors and a sly sense of humor.Like "American Dreams," it tackles adult issues in a way the whole family can watch together and it has more depictions of genuine faith and church-going than any show on TV other than the super-wholesome "7th Heaven." If "FNL" actually survives, it will rank with "Hill Street Blues" as one of those shows that aired on virtually every night of the week before clicking. But I do't think that will happen unless it finally moves to Friday and airs in the spring only without repeats, a la "24." Oh, and "FNL" continues to get attention on everyone's best of the year lists, now including USA Today. (They're right about Rosie and "The View," too.)

John C. Reilly: Rock Star

A mock rockumentary starring John C. Reilly as a drug-addled rock star who has more ups and downs than a yo-yo? With a script by Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan, a focus on the 50s through the 70s and songs by the likes of Marshall Crenshaw and music from Van Dyke Parks? They haven't even started filming and I'm already eager to go see it.

Billboard's Top 10 CDs

Apparently, Justin Timberlake, the Beatles, Carrie Underwood and "Hannah Montana" were under a fair number of Christmas trees this year. The Top 10 per Billboard via Hollywood Reporter:

1. Nas -- Hip Hop Is Dead
2. Hannah Montana Soundtrack
3. Various -- Now 23
4. Carrie Underwood -- Some Hearts
5. The Beatles -- Love
6. Bow Wow -- The Price Of Fame
7. Josh Groban -- Awake
8. Chris Daughtry -- Daughtry
9. Justin Timberlake -- FutureSex/Love Sounds
10. Akon -- Konvicted

Lock Up The Children!

Michael Jackson is back in America, Vegas to be specific. Over the holidays, I played a game called Tension with my nieces and nephews and siblings. You've got to try and name ten items on a list (such as Tom Hanks movies). When the category was Famous Gay People, one little girl blurted out "Michael Jackson!" I said he wasn't gay, that he was a child molester but the distinction was lost on her of course. To these kids (all 15 or younger), Michael Jackson has always been a tabloid freak who used to make music. I'm so old, I remember when Michael Jackson was cool.

"Groundhog Day" Added To National Film Registry

A well-deserved honor for the Bill Murray comedy that has gone from a pleasant surprise to acknowledged classic in the last 13 years. Repeat viewing, not surprisingly, works perfectly for this film. Here's the complete list of movies added to the National Film Registry:

* Applause (1929)
* The Big Trail (1930)
* Blazing Saddles (1974)
* The Curse of Quon Gwon (1916-17)
* Daughter of Shanghai (1937)
* Drums of Winter [Uksuum Cauyai] (1988)
* Early Abstractions #1-5, 7,10 (1939-56)
* Fargo (1996)
* Flesh and the Devil (1927)
* Groundhog Day (1993)
* Halloween (1978)
* In the Street (1948)
* The Last Command (1928)
* Notorious (1946)
* Red Dust (1932)
* Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1971-72)
* Rocky (1976)
* sex, lies and videotape (1989)
* Siege (1940)
* St. Louis Blues (1929)
* The T.A.M.I. Show (1964)
* Tess of the Storm Country (1914)
* Think of Me First as a Person (1960-75)
* A Time Out of War (1954)
* Traffic in Souls (1913)

Nope, I didn't recognize a lot of them either. But don't just focus on the ones you do know. Think to yourself, gee, if I like "Groundhog Day" and "Rocky" and "sex, lies and videotape" (and what a GREAT film that is), maybe I'll like the ones I haven't heard of. Read the descriptions and give movies like "Notorious" (my favorite Hitchcock after "Rear Window") and the steamy "Red Dust" a shot. In fact, you could give yourself a great movie education by working your way through the complete List here. Any movie on Netflix that you haven't seen is well worth checking out. A fair number are shorts or obscure art films not readily available, so it's not as daunting as it may look at first. For the record, I've seen at least 226 of the 450 films, cartoons, shorts, documentaries and newsreel footages on the list.

TV News Ratings -- Katie Couric Doing Just Fine

Here are the latest trends for TV news, all of which prove how very difficult it is to get viewers to change their life-long habits. My mom, for example, has always watched "Good Morning, America" and wouldn't miss Diane Sawyer to save her life. The same is true for viewers of evening news. Even though Tom Brokaw is gone, they've been getting used to Brian Williams for years and they ALWAYS turn to NBC at 6:30 and that doesn't change very easily. For the morning shows, these are the ratings average from mid-September to mid-December:

The Today Show -- 5.78 million viewers
Good Morning, America -- 4.95 million
The Early Show -- 2.77 million

GMA remains roughly 800,000 viewers behind "Today," despite Couric and Charlie Gibson leaving for the nightly news slot. All of them are down a little, "Today" least of all. That's new, since the viewership for morning news has been growing in the last couple of years.

Now here's the evening news:

NBC Nightly News -- 9.01 million viewers
ABC World News -- 8.45 million
CBS Evening News -- 7.54 million

Now here's the real news. Of all six shows, in every category (total viewers, ratings, adults 25-54), Katie Couric's Evening News on CBS is the only one to increase in ANY category. It grew slightly in total viewers (+1 percent, compared to NBC down 8 percent and ABC down 2 percent) and grew strongly in the key category of adults 25-54 by 5 percent, compared to NBC's drop of 12 percent and ABC's drop of 8 percent. Now some of that reflects the inflated numbers from her fist two weeks and massive media attention. But any way you slice it, that's good news. Couric moved the needle and has some momentum to build on. These figures are per MediaWeek's Marc Berman's daily email and is not posted online.

Danger Mouse Joins Underground Animals

That makes perfect sense, creature-wise. The polymorphic producer Danger Mouse -- responsible via Gnarls Barkley for "Crazy," the greatest single of the year -- is out there with another oddball project. This time, it's a Gorillaz-style mashup of animation and music where top producers working under pseudonyms create songs for the creatures of Animal Underground, which then get animated via Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. Okaaaay. Meanwhile, Gnarls Barkley will probably have a new album out this year because delivering one album every three or four years and working it to death is so pre-digital downloads.

Daleks Invade New York!

Sure, it's in the 1930s, so we're sort of safe. But if you're a Doctor Who fan and live in New York, this is fun news. And if you're wondering why so many of the episodes in the new launch of "Doctor Who" take place on Earth, it's for a very simple reason: it's cheaper. But you'd think by Season Three they'd give the good Doctor some more money to play with.

Them There Eyes

Spain's Alex de la Iglesia is making his English-language debut and he's probably the most intriguing international director to work in English since Mexico's Alfonso Cuaron. (Wong Kar Wai's English film will also be a trip.) It's a mystery set in Oxford with John Hurt as a Sherlock Holmes type deducer. But what I enjoyed was Iglesia's comment about his casting of Elijah Wood as the young student wwho plays Watson to Hurt's Holmes. "I'm delighted to work with Elijah, who undoubtedly has the most powerful eyes in the industry and who is perfect for the part," de la Iglesia said. I want to be friends with Wood just so I can convince him to show me the One Ring, his souvenir from the trilogy. Isn't that sad?

A Theatrical Bow

The NY Post's Michael Riedel says a final goodbye to theatrical stars who died this year via choice quotes from interviews with them. My favorite is the tribute to Maureen Stapleton.
One of the great stage actresses of the 20th century, Stapleton was equally skilled at drama ("The Glass Menagerie") and comedy ("Plaza Suite"). She was a colorful character offstage, candid about her looks, weight, phobias and enormous capacity for alcohol.

In 1971, after winning the Tony Award for "The Rose Tattoo," she told Tallmer: "I have wine after the show. I never could drink before a show. I did it once 20 years ago. I went to a cocktail party and didn't realize I was getting drunk. I went to work and only got through it by the grace of God. And I scared myself so that it's just out ever since."

She giggled and added: "And my husband said: 'Now if only you could scare yourself after 11:30 at night . . . ' "

James Brown To Lie In State At Apollo

How fitting. But they only plan to have Brown on view from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.? That seems awfully brief to me. I predict lines around the block and that they'll have to extend the viewing hours. If you can't make it, check out this red-hot clip from Brown in concert in Paris in I think the Seventies. Brown's intro's alone are funkier and more exciting than most people's performances. And then he launches into "Sex Machine." Warning: it cuts off before the song is over, but is still great fun.

"Notes On A Scandal"

The NYPost takes the same line as many critics: that "Notes" is classy fun with Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench as two women at a school locked in a steely embrace. (Blanchett is having an affair with a 15 year old student; Dench clearly wants to be closer to Blanchett, though she would never acknowledge the reality behind her impulses.) I have to side with the NYTimes on this, however. For me, "Notes" was a silly, overblown and obvious trifle. No movie with those two (plus Bill Nighy to boot) could be completely without fun and indeed Dench seems to be doing her best Maggie Smith imitation (curling with sarcasm) in the voice-overs. But ultimately it's a very silly bit of nothing with nary a surprise on the way.


That headline is a play on one of the most famous ones in NY Daily News history. When President Ford blocked New York City from getting a massive bailout, the NY Daily News headline read: FORD TO CITY -- DROP DEAD. (Ford was right about not pouring money down the drain without major changes. The city came back with substantial changes in its budget and management and Ford approved the help.) This headline idea came from monkeyboy; I wish I'd thought of it. How fitting Ford should die just as Season One of "Saturday Night Live" came out on DVD, reminding us all over again of Checy Chase's hilarious parodies of Ford as a klutz. Of course, in real life Ford was an excellent athlete but SNL was so popular people were probably astonished whenever he didn't stumble or fall. Personally, I'll always remember him as Mr. Veto, the President who -- in his short time in office -- handed out vetos at a remarkable rate. Reading his obit, you might be surprised to see how history has judged him well and the many accomplishments during his brief period in power. But pop culture being what it is, all most of us can really remember about him is the image of Ford slipping down the steps when getting off an airplane.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

"Dreamgirls" Dreamy At Box Office

Christmas Day was a big one at the movies, as always. "Dreamgirls" opened on some 800 screens so you probably had a chance to see it finally. It pulled in $8.7 million. "Chicago" seems to have been a bit stronger initially, pulling in similar numbers on only 300+ screens. "Night At The Museum" pulled in $12.4 million on the big day, with a four day total of $43.2 million exactly what you'd expect from a broad, Ben Stiller comedy. Will Smith's "The Pursuit of Happyness" pulled in $8.1 million, bringing him to an impressive total of $61.4 million. After the success of this and "Hitch" and the critical acclaim for "Ali," he has no excuse for making mindless action flicks ever again. "The Holiday," "Blood Diamond" and "Eragon" all slowed considerably -- not because the marketplace is crowded but because they don't deliver.

"Royale" Flush

The new James Bond film "Casino Royale" is the top-grossing Bond film worldwide of all time. It hit $448 million worldwide, some $17 million more than the $431 million of Pierce Brosnan's "Die Another Day." Those geeky die-hard fans who yelled and screamed when Daniel Craig was cast must feel particularly silly since this is also the best-reviewed Bond since the Sean Connery days. (Not that those were so beloved at the time, seen more as mere escapism.) Only three other movies grossed more than $300 million at the international box office: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," "The Da Vinci Code," and "Ice Age: The Meltdown." "Die Another Day" is still the top-grossing Bond in the US. And of course, $450 million worldwide isn't a patch on the $800+ million typical for the Harry Potter, "Lord of the Rings," "Spider-Man" and last three "Star Wars" movies all released in the last few years. (Let's not get into adjusting for inflation; that gives me a headache and I'm still in holiday mode.) But of course, James Bond is at #21 in the franchise and growing, so that in itself is remarkable.

Two Promising New UK Music Shows

Most of the great music showcases on TV came from the UK, with the notable exception of "MTV's Unplugged." "Top Of The Pops," "The Old Grey Whistle Test," "Later with Jools Holland" and on and on -- the UK always takes the time to do it right. Now two new shows look set to continue that tradition. "Live From Abbey Road" takes the time to present artists with the care they deserve. And the online series From The Basement looks very cool, with initial guests including White Stripes and Thom Yorke of Radiohead. Unfortunately, they're charging an insane amount for their downloads, almost $20 for the entire first episode and about $4 per "video." You can buy an entire season of TV for about $30 to $40 and they want you to pay $20 for ONE episode? Ain't gonna happen.

Carson Daly Vs. Ryan Seacrest

Who's gonna be the next Dick Clark? It's a tie, actually. Ryan Seacrest will clearly inherit Dick Clark's throne as the King of New Year's Eve, along with the substantial audience that Clark enjoys on ABC. But Daly has already proven himself more of the mini-mogul in the vein of Clark, thanks to his numerous TV shows, Internet ventures and so on. Seacrest has "Idol," his radio gig and "New Year's Eve," but all that's strictly as talent for hire. In a fight, I'd go with Daly, I think, but it wouldn't be much of a scrap.

UK Christmas Music Charts

As predicted, "X Factor" winner Leona Lewis (the UK's equivalent to "American Idol") has won the UK Christmas battle with her first single, a cover of "A Moment Like This." If that's a sign of the imagination Simon Cowell is going to use in creating her first album, he's going to squander the chance he has to create a world-beating artist. Presumably, it was just meant to link her to Kelly Clarkson (who was perhaps the biggest graduate of "Idol" though Carrie Underwood could lay claim to being at least her equal now). I love that the Pogues hit #6 with "Fairytale Of New York," the highest charting single that's actually about Christmas. And it's no surprise to see Take That on top of the Album charts. The UK singles top 10:

1. Leona Lewis -- A Moment Like This
2. Take That -- Patience
3. McFly -- Sorry's Not Good Enough
4. Girls Aloud -- I Think We're Alone Now
5. Cascada -- Truly Madly Deeply
6. Pogues -- Fairytale Of New York
7. Cliff Richard -- 21st Century Christmas/Move It
8. Booty Luv -- Boggie 2nite
9. Akon featuring Eminem -- Smack That
10. Chris Cornell -- You Know My Name

George Michael Gives free Concert For Nurses

It's a tribute to the nurses who cared for his dying mum. Sadly, however, the nurses were not asked to wear those lovely white uniforms. That would have made a great video.

"And I Am Telling You" The History Of That Song

The NYPOst's Michael Riedel has a brief story about the writing of the titanic central number from "Dreamgirls." Think about it: that first line ("And I am telling you I'm not going") is an awkward mouthful but they turned it into a smash.

Frank Stanton Is Dead

Nope, I'd never heard of him either. But he's clearly a titan in the world of television and as responsible as William S. Paley for the dominance CBS enjoyed as the Tiffany Network for so many years. (Once upon a time, CBS was the network that always aired the highest quality shows. Then it was NBC. Now it's...HBO? FOX? No one?) Stanton pioneered audience measurements in radio and what would become a template for Nielsen in TV, expanded the evening news, fought with the government during 'Nam and the criticism of TV's role in covering that war and faltered when it came to the communist scare in the Fifties. A cool customer, I like that his final instructions were that absolutely no memorial service should be held and no donations in his name be made.

Ricky Gervais Free Podcast

Rocky Gervais continues to go from strength to strength, delivering the classic sitcom "The Office," a fine followup in "Extras," a well-reviewed standup act, cameos in all sorts of TV shows and movies and podcasts recognized by the Guinness Book Of World Records as the most popular of all-time. He switched to a paid format last year, but I missed the fact that he's had three free podcasts timed to the holidays this year. If you're a fan, these rambling bits of silliness will amuse.

Christmas Day TV Battle

On Christmas Day in the US, everyone goes out to the movies. On Christmas Day in the UK, eveyrone gathers around the telly. Every network throws in specials and holiday programming of their biggest hits in an attempt to claim the crown of top show of the day (much like artists battle to have the #1 single). This year, the winner is Dawn french of French & Saunders, who wins the biggest audience with a special episode of her sitcom "The Vicar of Dibley," a less satiric spin on "Father Ted." Other big winners included the perennial favorites "Eastenders" and 'Coronation Street" and what's becoming the annual tradition of a "Doctor Who" special. Yet another UK tradition is the "annual," a book filled with all sorts of puzzles and articles and games and stories, as far as I can tell, and "Doctor Who" delivered the most popular one this year. I see annual's referenced every once in a while in British literature and so on, but still have never spotted one or read them.

Bestselling Books

I'm still surprised by the complete lack of literary works having sustained success on the bestseller lists this fall. Usually, this is the time of year when serious fiction does best of all. Not this year. The last chart before Christmas showed everyone gravitating towards the obvious brand names, with the pablum of Mitch Albom topping the fiction list and Barack Obama staking a continued claim for serious contender status on the nonfiction list. (Hilary for President and Obama as VP would be an unbeatable team.) And they didn't get the rave reviews of the 9-11 commission, but The Iraq Study Group is on top of the paperback bestsellers list with their final report. Too bad Bush won't read it.

Meet The Beatles

I finally listened to the "new" Beatles album "Love." It's just a glorified mixtape, with not a single moment where the mashing up of the melody from one song merged with the lyrics to another song to make me hear the music anew or think of a tune in a different light. At one point, the French horn (?) from "Penny Lane" pops into another song at a random moment and it served no purpose other than a "Where's Waldo" sort of challenge. Most of the time, the songs were barely recast at all, with entire tunes playing out mostly the way they always did. Sure, some elements were brought to the fore while others were slipped in briefly from other songs, but basically most everything sounded pretty much the way you'd expect. When the ominous intro to "I Am The Walrus" began, I got a little interesteed. That's some truly spooky music and I wondered what they would pair it with. And it led into..."I Am The Walrus." Typical. When they begin the acoustic "Strawberry Fields Forever" and slowly build it up into the version we know, I thought, "That was done better on "Anthology" and works best of all with the video of George Martin talking you through it. Could this have been done better? Probably not, since it was a silly idea in the first place. Would I LOVE to hear just vocal tracks of all their songs and demos and rough mixes that only include some elements and isolated piano and guitar tracks and all the other possibilities that rush through the mind when you think about having access to the Beatles archives? Oh yes. Will I be first in line the day they release the Beatles boxed set with all those elements available for you to isolate and listen to and remix and mull over to your heart's content. You bet. Is "Love" fun to listen to? Of course. It's some of the greatest music of all time and sounds so good you gnash your teeth over the fact that their catalog hasn't been remastered. But no one should buy this until they've already bought and (repeatedly) listened to "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver" and "Sgt. Pepper" and "The White Album" and "Abbey Road." Good lord, they haven't even put out a proper version of "Let It Be" yet and we're getting this mishmashup? Please please please remaster the studio albums. Until then, I'll be pouring over these self-published books by Beatlemaniacs. If the fans had the power, the Beatles catalog would be treated right. Variety says we'll finally get the Beatles catalog remastered in 2007.

Awakening To Duncan Sheik

I've been a fan of Duncan Sheik since his first album. Now everyone is realizing what a talent he is, thanks to the critical success of the Broadway musical "Spring Awakening." The NYTimes finally gets around to doing a profile of him in the wake of their rave review. But it was either slapped together or just held from a few weeks ago: this profile could have been written last month and there's not a hint of any comment from Sheik about the show's startlingly strong reviews. In other words, this ia a generic profile, not an up-to-the-minute look at Sheik reflecting where he is today, as the front runner for a Tony and wondering if the show will have commercial legs.

A Look At "Look"

A new exhibition at the Museum of the City Of New York draws on the amssive archives of "Look" magazine, the slightly more off-beat rival to "Life." If you can't make it, this NYTimes article has a good rundown and includes a link to a slideshow of about five of the images from the show, including a spookily focused Stanley Kubrick from his days as a photographer.

Christmas Music Ain't Just For Christmas

Not when you've got Springsteen on Conan singing "Merry Christmas Baby" or John Lennon's sadly timeless look at the miseries of war.

My Favorite DVDs and Films Scores

Here are two "Best Of" articles for the NY Daily News:

My favorite DVD releases of the year.

My favorite film soundtracks of the year.

Still to come are my personal lists of the best films of the year (I've still got to check out a few flicks like "The Good Shepherd" and "Little Children") and best CDs of the year (stil gotta spin some more CDs before I'm ready on that too).

"High School Musical" Phenomenon Rolls On

My story for the NY Daily News on "High School Musical's" Corbin Bleu. Keep your head in the game!

Weekend Box Office -- In The Still(er) Of The Night

Every day from last Friday to next Monday is a big day for the movies, with so many kids out of school and so many families looking for ways to spend time together without having to talk. Ben Stiller led the way with the family-friendly "Night At The Museum," which grossed more than $30 million. Its studio Fox said this was much better than the $20 million+ they'd beeen counting on, but that seems coy to me. $20 million for a Ben Stiller movie loaded with splashy special effects, adult appeal actors like Luke Wilson and Robin Williams and a dinosaur skeleton that comes to life? His recent openings include "Along Came Polly" at $27 million, "Starsky & Hutch" at $28 million, "Dodgeball" at $30 million, "Meet The Fockers" at $46 million and the animated film "Madagascar" at $47 million. I can't imagine they really expected any LESS than $30 million. "The Good Shepherd" and "We Are Marshall" will have to be discovered on DVD for most people. It flopped. "Eragon," as expected, had terrible word of mouth.Here's the top 10 for the weekend, but keep in mind that Sunday, Christmas Eve, is usually deadly quiet at the box office while Christmas Day, Monday, should be strong.

1. Night At The Museum -- $30.8 million
2. The Pursuit Of Happyness -- $15 million ($53.3 million total)
3. Rocky Balboa -- $12.5 million ($21.8 million)
4. The Good Shepherd -- $10 million
5. Charlotte's Web -- $8 million ($26.5 million total)
6. Eragon -- $7.15 million ($37.6 million total)
7. We Are Marshall -- $6.6 million
8. Happy Feet -- $5.1 million ($159.1 million total)
9. The Holiday -- $5 million ($35 million total)
10. The Nativity Story -- $4.65 million ($32.5 million total)

I Feel Bad

James Brown is dead. The obits cover the usual territory, but if yuo've got the time, Jonathan Lethem did a lengthy, absorbing, prickly profile of Brown for Rolling Stone back in June. And of course the best tribute of all would be to turn up "Live At The Apollo" or "The CD of JB" and rattle the windows.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Happy Holidays Popsurfers!

Thanks for visiting my blog, especially if you've posted comments! I'm travelling to Pennsylvania then Alabama then back to Pennsylvania and then back here right after Christmas. If I post at all, it will be very sporadic. Have a safe and happy holiday.


AMC Joins In Remake Of "The Prisoner"

Yes, because nothing says an American Movie Classic like a remake of a British TV series. AMC's venture into original films with the western "Broken Trail" was a stretch, but made sense since no one makes westerns anymore. But a remake of a TV series that has NOTHING to do with the movie or entertainment industry? That is just as bad as their re-airing of the British crime series "Hustle." No matter how good the show is, it doesn't belong on AMC. And neither does "The Prisoner." A remake of this show makes zero sense in any case -- it was completely of its time. Mind you, I thought a remake of "The Office" was insane and I've been happily proven wrong. Hopefully I'll be wrong again and somehow this cult classic will work as a remake. But even if it does, it has no business airing on AMC anymore than "Little House On the Prairie" belongs on the SciFi channel.

The New Poster For The Academy Awards

Every year, I look forward to the poster revealed for the Cannes Film Festival. I don't recall ever paying attention to the poster created for the Oscars, but this year they've announced it and the poster is a solid one that focuses on classic movie quotes. Now if only the show itself would focus on the movies instead of dance numbers, celebrity banter and the umpteenth description of what a Sound Editor does.

"Spring Awakening's" Weak Print Ads

The NY Post has a story on the weak ad campaign for "Spring Awakening," something I was complaining about just yesterday.

"Dreamgirls" -- Apparently, It's Supposed To Be A Smash

Here's your daily fix of info on "Dreamgirls" until the movie finally opens at a theater near you with tickets that don't cost $25.

Tom Stoppard's Worldwide Success

With Tom Stoppard's "Coast Of Utopia" trilogy proven a smash hit in New York, his new play in London -- "Rock N Roll" -- has transfers to the West End and garners rave reviews even on a second look.

Rush, Bright Eyes Ready New Albums

Rush's new CD will come out sometime this year. It's their best ever, insists Geddy Lee! But he would, wouldn't he. Lee traveled the country and didn't find himself pleased with the religious right, so don't look for any U2-like embrace of their music by congregations. (RUSH-ashana, anyone?) Meanwhile Bright Eyes has an Ep in March and a new album April 10. Conor Oberst had one of the most overwhelming amounts of media focus for his album "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning," being constantly hailed as the new Dylan, which wasn't even a crazy comparison. Then the hype came to a complete halt the moment his album came out, which may have unnerved or probably relieved him.

Finally, Sony got a slap on the wrist for embedding secret software onto millions of people's computers and screwing with their performance and spying on them. We need a Privacy Amendment to the Constitution.

The Doors and Ornette Coleman Among Grammy Lifetime Winners

I find it hard to believe, but the Doors, Joan Baez, Maria Callas, Ornette Coleman, Booker T & The MGs, Bob Wills and the Grateful Dead never received a Grammy during their entire careers. (One member of Booker T won a Grammy for cowriting Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay"). They're all getting Lifetime Grammys on February 11. And hey, Otis sure is lucky he cowrote that song or he'd be suing himself for credit on that whistling solo.

We Are...Marshall's Website

If you have any interest in the football drama "We Are Marshall," the local paper where the real-life tragedy took place has done an excellent job of creating a website filled with all sorts of stories and video clips about the movie and the true story behind it.

Organist From Procol Harum Wins Court Case

Forty years after "A Whiter Shade of Pale" becomes a hit, the organist on the track decides he's a co-writer and deserves royalties? A dangerous precedent that may mean anyone who does any solo on any song can claim they wrote it. What's next? The guy who did the organ intro on Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" demanding a piece of the pie? The trumpet soloist on Sinatra's "I've Got You Under My Skin"? Eric Clapton is suddenly very glad he played the guitar on "Layla." One hates to cut off any artistic contribution, but soloing on a song doesn't mean you've written it (I'd say) and if you DID make a significant contribution to a tune, I'd suggest waiting 40 years to make that claim severely hampers your believability.

Ron Goldman Suing OJ...

...and Fox and Judith Regan and HarperCollins. Seems like he'll have a very good case since it's pretty transparent that they were trying to get money to OJ without forcing him to surrender it to defray the mounting total he owes for slaughtering the mother of his children.

Eminem Divorces Kim Again

Doesn't she listen to his music?

The Best Graphic Novels Of The Year

A very welcome list -- this time a poll by Publishers Weekly of critics and writers naming their favorite graphic novels of the year. In first place, Alison Bechdel's Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. That's on my to-read list, though the runner-up "Castle Waiting" didn't interest me. As for reissues, the "Gasoline Alley" reprints "Walt & Skeezix" are top-notch. But my favorites -- not strictly graphic novels but cartoons -- are the marvelous Jean-Jacques Sempe collections reissued by Phaidon.

US Gov't Lies About John Lennon Files

For 25 years, the US government has lied about its files on John Lennon, claiming that some of the info on him that wasn't released came from a foreign government and that if the files were released, that gov't might enact economic, political or diplomatic retaliation against the US. My God, it might start World War III!! Of course, now the files are released we know that nothing of the sort is involved. In fact, the new info says some UK lefties tried to get Lennon to bankroll a liberal bookstore. He turned them down. That's it. Do you really think Tony Blair is going to recall his ambassador because of this disclosure, which perhaps came from the British government? Hardly. What the US and UK should really be worried about is people actually listening to Lennon's music and message. But they can't lock that away, can they?

How Much For "Spider-Man 3?"

An LATimes story about all the sequels scheduled for 2007 (like "Shrek The Third," "Spider-Man 3," the latest "Harry Potter" and "Pirates 3") covers the usual ground. (It's nice to know Daniel Radcliffe is getting $14 mil for the new movie since he's the linchpin of a multibillion dollar enterprise.) But at the end they include estimated budgets of some of the movies, with "Pirates of the Caribbean 3" at $280 million and "Spider-Man 3" at $260 million, to give two of the most striking examples. $260 million for one movie? I remember when having a $100 million budget seemed grotesque and embarrassing to Hollywood. It was last week, I think. Suddenly, "Titanic" looks like a bargain. Unless these movies gross $800 milllion worldwide, they're flops. But given the built-in appeal of these franchises (where the laws of diminishing returns don't apply anymore), they will. It seems like a big roll of the dice, but if you were a movie studio, wouldn't you gladly pick any of them up at those prices?

Is "The Dark Tower" Stephen King's Masterpiece?

A graphic novel adaptation of the 7 volume "Dark Tower" series is coming and USA Today has a chat w King and an early peek at the artwork. King's more literary works -- like "Different Seasons" --usually get the better reviews. Some fans still think of "The Stand" as his masterwork. But for sheer ambition and King-like pulpiness, "The Dark Tower" series looms large. Someday soon, I'm gonna have to tackle it. What do you think is his best book or is "masterpiece" and Stephen King a stretch and we should just be talking about which is the most fun?

"Friday Night Lights" Wins Over Critics

Newsweek is the latest outlet to single out "Friday Night Lights" as one of the best shows on TV.

"American Idol" News

The new season gets closer. Producers are teasing us with the suggestion that they'll have a stunt event in the middle of the season that will blow...our...minds. No idea what that might be, but they've cleverly refreshed and rejiggered the show every year. And if this idea doesn't pan out, they'll wisely drop it and move on. Meanwhile the winner of "The X Factor" (UK's equivalent show) is Leona Lewis and she has officially scored the #1 Christmas single. This is a really big deal in the UK, where major starts jockey for the right song at the right time. But "X Factor" has taken the fun out of it, since the winner of the show has their first single released right in time for Christmas and is invariably the winner. You'll onnly get even money, but you can place a bet for Christmas of 2007: whoever wins "The X Factor." Finally, Lewis is the real deal and will be the first UK winner to cross over to the US. She has the beauty and pipes of Whitney and Mariah -- at least, that's what the US record labels fighting to represent her believe.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

DVD Roundup

The NYTimes offers the usual DVD gift guide.
USA Today points out that Spike Lee's documentary "When The Levee Breaks" is out today. They insist it's his best documentary yet, but I don't think it or any movie he's made can hold a candle to "Four Little Girls." "Levee" is worth seeing, but I found it very disjointed and at times confusing. It's basically chronological, and yet I didn't feel any strong spine guiding me through the story. Without knowing where you're going, you feel a bit adrift, not sensing what's next or where you're headed to or how long it's going to take to get there. Some great people, some great stories, but not ultimately shaped into a great film.

Brittany Murphy Is A Drag

She's having a great year, thanks to "Happy Feet" and the January release of the very fine indie film "The Dead Girl." But Murphy kept me waiting around for HOURS both yesterday and all this morning and never called for a scheduled interview. I don't mind actors turning down interview requests but saying yes and then not calling is a complete waste of time and insulting. It's really thrown a wrench into my plans as I try to write about eight different stories and get out of town. It may seem silly, but when you're waiting for someone to call (even for hours), you can't really do anything else because you're trying to stay focused on them and the questions you want to ask. Aaargghhhh. I'm off to run errands before coming back to interview Corbin Bleu of "High School Musical" this afternoon and then off to see a movie starring Cedric The Entertainer.

"Spring Awakening" Gets Big Box Office Boost

Variety reports that the box office for "Spring Awakening" jumped more than 60% this week. No surprise: it had rave reviews across the board, including a money review from the NYTimes. One thing that disturbs me are the ugly full page ads they're running in the Times. It doesn't give a sexy spotlight to the young cast and it completely fails to overwhelm you with the terrific reviews the show got. Where's the quote about its erotic jolt? And the million other terrific quotes. They use three quotes in huge type (and not all of them from the Bway run) as if there weren't 20 different publications they could quote. Those ads are doing the show a terrible disservice. One other show getting a huge uptick is "The Coast Of Utopia." They're astonished that audiences want to see all three plays and that the marathons are so popular. They shouldn't be. The same thing happened in the UK>

US Version Of "Footballers' Wives"

The US take on the trashily fun UK melodrama will -- predictably -- focus on the wives of NFL superstars rather than soccer stars for the obvious reason that the US has no soccer stars to speak of. My only question is what took them so long? This seemed a show ripe for remake from the start.

Satellite Awards Are Announced!

Do you care? Of course not. But the Satellite Awards have been announced. As have the Dallas-Fort Worth critics' awards, the Las Vegas critics' awards and for all I know the Topeka, Kansas critics' awards, the Kissimee, Florida awards and on and on. Call me when the Oscar nominations are announced.

Johnny Hallyday May Flee France

The French Elvis is tired of massive taxes and unless the right-wing candidate he supports gets into office and gives some relief, Hallyday will move to Switzerland. Hallyday is a national icon, so this would be the equivalent of Springsteen moving to France. Unthinkable.

Jewish Cabal Topples OJ Editor

I thought they were busy running Hollywood (and our foreign policy), but apparently they've got a little spare time on the side.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Half Of Hanna-Barbera Animation Duo Dies

Animation giant Joseph Barbera is dead. I was reminded of his legacy when someone joked that the Upper West Side was becoming like the backdrop of a Jetsons cartoon where everything repeats: walk five or ten blocks and you see Starbucks, Gap, Chase, Duane Reade, Starbucks, Gap, Chase, Duane Reade and on and on. The point is not to mock the barebones animation but to recognize that Hanna-Barbera taught us something that animated hits like "South Park" and "Beavis and Butthead" took to heart: lovely detailed animation is wonderful, but all you need to create a lasting hit is great characters. Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, Jonny Quest, the Smurfs, the Powerpuff Girls and on and on. Nothing truly extraordinary or earth-shaking, perhaps, but lasting pop-cultural stuff nonetheless.

Real-Life Broadway Danny Rose Dies

Talent agent Ruth Webb was quite a character, from the live racoons she nursed to the Hollywood legends she revitalized after everyone else had given up on them (hello, Mickey Rooney). But my favorite story from her very entertaining obit is this nugget: Tonya Harding (of Nancy Kerrigan/skating scandal fame) turned down a part in a Woody Allen movie "because she abhorred his morals." Wow, you know Woody was at a low point when Tonya Harding could take the high ground on him.

"Peter Pan" Sequel Movie Rights Sold

The only official sequel to "Peter Pan" -- "Peter Pan In Scarlet" -- has been sold to the BBC et al to be made into a movie. But shouldn't they make a decent movie out of the original classic first? I love the novel and don't think any of the films have come within a mile of capturing its brilliance. (I know, the play came first. But I think the novel is better, richer, and funnier.) The best stage adaptation I saw combined humans and puppets via Mabou Mines in a heartbreaking, wonderful show called "Peter & Wendy."

Overnight TV Ratings -- CW Almost Disappears Entirely

The CW barely registed Sunday night when it filled its schedule with one new "Reba," a repeat of "Reba" and two repeats of "America's Next Top Model." That's no way to build a network OR protect your most valuable franchise. Meanwhile, "Survivor" won the night but was down some 20% from the last finale. For a complete ratings breakdown, go to MediaWeek's Marc Berman. (Note: "r" means repeat.)

7 p.m.
1. 60 Minutes (CBS) -- 13.92 million viewers
2. Football Overrun (FOX) -- 16.49 million/The OT (FOX) -- 8.94 million
3. A Charlie Brown Christmas (ABC) -- 7.99/Santa Clause 2 (ABC) -- 13.61 million
4. Football Night In America (NBC) -- 6.82 million
5. Reba r (CW) -- 2.52 million/Reba (CW) -- 3.44 million

8 p.m.
1. Survivor: Cook Island (CBS) -- 16.43 million
2. Santa Clause 2 (ABC) -- 13.61 million
3. Football Pregame (NBC) -- 12.24 mil/Sunday Night Football (NBC) -- 13.07 million
4. The Simpsons (FOX) -- 8.96 million/American Dad (FOX) -- 7.48 million
5. America's Next Top Model r (CW) -- 1.14 million

9 p.m.
1. Survivor: Cook Island (CBS) -- 16.43 million
2. Santa Clause 2 (ABC) -- 13.61 million
3. Sunday Night Football (NBC) -- 13.07 million
4. Family Guy (FOX) -- 8.81 million/Family Guy r (FOX) -- 7.81 million
5. America's Next Top Model r (CW) -- 0.88 or 880,000 viewers

10 p.m.
1. Survivor: Cook Island Reunion (CBS) -- 13.52 million
2. Sunday Night Football (NBC) -- 13.07 million
3. Desperate Housewives (ABC) r -- 7.73 million

"The Queen" Filmmakers Invited To Buckingham

It's unclear whether they're the only ones invited or part of a luncheon celebrating British cinema. In any case, the talent behind "The Queen" has been invited to Buckingham Palace for some sandwiches and a spot of tea. I can't imagine the Queen attending and talking about the film, but Variety reports that the Queen has seen the film and enjoyed it.

A Movie First: An Entire Country Gets Final Cut

The creators and stars behind "The Painted Veil" are fighting back from obscurity. A classic Oscar-style movie (literary pedigree, stars, period setting), "The Painted Veil" has been lost in the end-of-the-year shuffle. But the talent is taking their story to the LA Times and Variety to hope they can scare up some sympathy and some more marketing muscle from Warner Bros. They say WB has dropped the ball because its Oscar plate is already full with ""The Departed," "Letters From Iwo Jima," "Happy Feet" and "Blood Diamond." WB says editing tussles delayed the film's release and their ability to market it. And buried in the story is surely a Hollywood first: in order to get permission to film in China, the filmmakers gave China final cut! That's right, an entire country was given final cut when most top film directors have to fight for that right. Anything China wanted out came out. There was back and forth and compromise, but this is still bizarre. The US military always plays hardball when providing access for Hollywood and demands script cuts and the such. But final cut? I don't think they or any other country has ever been given this before. Crazy.

Simon Cowell Richer Than God

Simon Cowell -- the force behind "American Idol," the UK's "X Factor" and a slew of hopeful reality shows like "America's Got Talent" -- has just signed a three year $40 million contract with ITV. Add that to the massive amounts he makes for "Idol" and Cowell is worth well over $100 million. All for being insulting and telling people what they're doing wrong? My brother Chris does that for free.

Very Ginger Beer

Apparently, that's Cockney rhyming slang for "queer" and BBC car show host Jeremy Clarkson has been chided for using it on describe a car. He also agreed with an audience member who thought a certain car was "a bit gay." That's right. You can't insult gay people and you can't insult cars, either. A previous joke about Germany was deemed okay because it was considered amusing rather than offensive. I don't know; being so sensitive about every perceived slight seems a bit gay to me.

Evil Bunny Strikes Again

"Postcards From Buster" is back on the air. The evil bunny Buster -- who has been spreading his malicious gospel of tolerance and diversity and respect for other people and cultures -- was at the center of a maelstrom when a child with two mommys was briefly seen on camera without the appropriate denunciation. Now a new season has begun and Buster hasn't stopped proselytizing: he's visiting an Army post, taking kids across the border to Mexico to meet their pen pals (and future illegal immigrants, no doubt!), and even revisiting kids they met in the first season because their homes were destroyed by Katrina. Where's the HUAC when you need it? By the way, darned if I can find the article now, but according to gov't statistics reported (I think in USA Today) some 75% of children are raised in non-traditional families. A "traditional" family is when the biological mom and dad live together and raise the kids. I have three brothers and sisters with kids -- all of them are divorced, one is a single mom (with a great job and living in one of the ritziest zip codes in the country), one is remarried with her two kids joining her new husband and one is remarried with a blended family of his two kids and her kid all sharing a home. Mind you, all the kids also spend time with their other biological as well. So what's traditional anymore?

Actually, The #1 Movie Is "Eragon"

Not in the US, where "The Pursuit Of Happyness" triumphed. But worldwide, the #1 movie of the weekend is "Eragon." It grossed $53.8 million around the world (including its US total). Maybe it will do better overseas, where visuals are sometimes more important than dialogue and acting. Certainly, unless a drop is disastrous, $150 million worldwide seems likely, which makes this $100 million movie so-so rather than the flop the US reviews indicated it might be. Clearly, they've launched it well; now it just depends on word of mouth. "Casino Royale" meanwhile is at $418 million worldwide, just about $13 million shy of the record held by "Die Another Day." Boy, was I wrong about this movie. It's the first time Bond has introduced a new hero and not dropped in grosses. Since it follows the top-grossing Bond film of all time, that's really saying something.

Barry Gibb Is Actually A Country Singer?

So says the singer from the now defunct Bee Gees. He's moved to Nashville, bought a home owned by Johnny Cash and is recording an album. (In that falsetto? That's hard to imagine, unless he's gonna be doing a lot of yodeling. Maybe he's a Jimmie Rodgers fan. To be fair, he did give Dolly Parton her last #1 hit via a duet w Kenny Rogers.) "I am a country artist, always have been a country artist, and this is my chance to get some self-expression out because the group is no longer the group," he said. Okay. Any inspiration from beyond the grave? "You feel like someone is watching," he said. "You feel like there is a presence in the house of both Johnny and June. I still haven't seen a tall man wearing black clothes yet, but I am very much into it and hope that I do."

I Feel Sorry For Showtime

How many good shows do they have to produce before people start actually watching their network? Surely they've hit some creative tipping point where people will decide Showtime is worth the $10 a month they happily pay for HBO. "Weeds," "The L Word," "Brotherhood," "Sleeper Cell" and "Dexter." That's a lineup -- creatively speaking -- that anyone would be happy to have.

I Know, I Know. But It's Good

Is it just me or is Drake Bell (the teen star of Nickelodeon's "Drake & Josh") really talented? His new single deserves the tag of Beatlesque pop, which I never use unless something is actually very good. Check out "I Know" yourself. I've interviewed Drake twice and apparently music-wise he's just getting started.

OJ Editor A Bigot?

The latest scuttlebutt is that Judith Regan was fired by Rupert Murdoch after making allegedly somewhat anti-Semitic remarks to colleagues. This was the final straw, of course, not the entire reason.
The conversation with Mr. Jackson on Friday afternoon was described by sources as heated and confrontational, even for the famously forceful Ms. Regan. Ms. Regan’s alleged comments, which came in the midst of a tense conversation in which she berated Mr. Jackson, were directed at him and Ms. Friedman, who are Jewish, as well as toward other Jews, one of the sources said.

That source would not say specifically what Ms. Regan is alleged to have said, but characterized the comments as offensive and inappropriate, but not a hateful tirade.
Hmm, so the comments fell somewhere between a Mel Gibson and a Kramer?

Why Did "The Nine" Flop?

This unilluminating story from the LA Times won't tell you. Indeed, why is this story running now -- or at all. It doesn't tell us a darn thing other than the fact that the show has flopped. They also spread the canard that just because a network hasn't officially said a show is "cancelled" that it's wrong to say a show is dead. Uh-uh. When a network yanks a show from the air, when no new episodes or even scripts have been ordered, when no one knows when remaining episodes will air, when people suggest the show was such a commercial flop that ABC might not even be able to air them, when everyone involved with the show has moved on and is looking for new jobs, it is not "erroneous" to say the show is dead. "The Nine" is dead." Why? Because an excellent pilot led to a long tease -- we didn't want to be toyed with while wondering what had happened during that bank robbery. (What the heck did Scott Wolf do anyway?) Even if a show has tons of mysteries, we want to feel we're moving forward, not constantly looking into the past. Besides, since every single character knew what had happened, keeping that info from the viewers for more than a show or two was just annoying.

Uk Music Charts -- Who Will Get The Christmas Single?

This week's UK music charts are out and Take That is #1 again with the single "Patience" and the album "Beautiful World." But all anyone can talk about is the Christmas single. Every year performers jockey to have bragging rights over snaring the Number One single on Christmas. Will Take That stay on top? Will new "X Factor" winner Leona Lewis move to Number one with her first single, a cover of Kelly Clarkson's "Moment Like This?" (Even if it's an attempt to say Lewis is the biggest talent to win "Idol"/"X Factor" since Kelly, that's a lame song choice.) The beloved Cliff Richards jumps in at #2 with "21st Century Christmas." And the Pogies are back in the Top 10 with their perennial favorite "Fairytale of New York." You can hear many of the songs vying for top honors via this BBC story.Place your bets!

What's The Biggest Cash Crop In The US?

Not corn. Not soybean. Not hay. It's pot. Harold and Kumar would be proud. And seriously, when a law is so completely ignored and there's a movement by many states to make something legal -- at least for the very ill -- then surely it's time to rethink policy. Saying if you legalize pot that you're on the way to legalizing cocaine or LSD is like saying if you raise the speed limit to 65 mph you're destined to raise it to 90 mph.

Weekend Box Office -- The Final Happy Numbers

To the surprise of no one who reads Popsuring, Will Smith's "The Pursuit Of Happyness" was the number one movie at the box office this weekend. Box Office Prophetws got it wrong (hey, we all make mistakes) but claiming today that "Will Smith has become sort of a quiet superstar," is just plain idiotic. He's been a HUGE movie star since "Independence Day" and has ten films that have opened at #1 to prove it. "Charlotte's Web" of course was a big flop, while "Eragon" did better than expected but will sink like a stone next week, I think. In limited release, "Dreamgirls" is benefitting from $25 tickets and massive demand to score a sensational $120,000 per screen, says Variety. It opens on a modest 800 screens on Christmas Day, which is a perfect launch while it waits for the Golden Globe awards and Oscar nominations to expand wider. The Top 10, per BOP:

1. The Pursuit of Happyness -- $27 million
2. Eragon -- $23.5 million
3. Charlotte's Web -- $12 million
4. Happy Feet -- $8.5 million ($149.4 million total)
5. The Holiday -- $8.2 million ($25.3 million total)
6. Apocalypto -- $7.7 million ($27.9 million total)
7. Blood Diamond -- $6.3 million ($18.4 million total)
8. Casino Royale -- $5.7 million ($137.6 million total)
9. The Nativity Story -- $4.7 million ($23.1 million total)
10. Unaccopanied Minors -- $3.7 million ($10.2 million total)

We Are...Matthew

Here's my NYDaily News sit down with the two Matthews: Matthew McConaughey and Matthew Fox, promoting their new football drama "We Are Marshall." Fox was quite modest and low-key (though they were making a movie about football, Fox apparently never rbought up his college days as a wide receiver for Columbia), while McConaughey seems like a guy who knows how to have fun. More power to him.

Michael Jackson: The Laziest Man In The World?

James Brown has long dubbed himself "the hardest working man in show biz." Surely now Michael Jackson is gunning for the title of "least hardest working man in show biz." Michael is traipsing around the world, bumming off people like Middle East princes, British businessmen and Lord of the Dance Michael Flatley for places to stay. He's in debt up to his ears and avoiding endless charges of child molestation. Clearly, he's desperate for money. And yet, tomorrow Jackson was supposed to be in Tokyo and have dinner with fans who spent up to $3500 for the honor. Jackson didn't have to speak to anyone and he certainly didn't have to perform (his music was going to be playing in the background, of course). All he had to do to make some money was SIT THERE. And Michael Jackson just cancelled.

Making A Killing In Comics

The NYDaily News has a profile of the Dabel Brothers, a tam that has broken through in the comic book world with their adaptation of a vampire hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton. Me, I'm still waiting for Hamilton's work to get a spashy big screen or TV launch.

New "Idol" Winner Leona Lewis

In the UK, "X Factor" is the reigning version of "Pop Idol." It's nto the completely massive hit that "American Idol" has become, but it has supplanted the original "Pop Idol." No wonder Simon Cowell was sued for creating it -- it and "American Idol" seem to share every new innovation, right down to having pop stars duet with the finalists on the big last show. The newest "X Factor" winner is Leona Lewis, a pretty young woman with a fantastic voice. You can check out her duet with Take That at the finals or any number of other performances on YouTube. Mind you, my first thought when reading this story was, "Who's the gay-ish kid she beat out?" It's Ray Quinn, an 18 year old Liverpudlian. Sort of a UK Michael Buble, he trotted out every warhorse in the book, from "Smile" (which isn't bad) to "Oh Mandy" and "Never Walk Alone." He sounds flat much of the time, but in the studio he might be able to get by and clearly it was Ray's cuddlyish image that won him fans. (He even tears up on "Never Walk Alone," which is a funeral/memorial favorite in the UK.) Great fun and I think Leona Lewis will be the first UK winner to crossover to the US.

From Intern To Feature Film Director

My profile of young director Gideon Raff for the NY Daily News.

Opera Diva Says He Was Sick

Telenovelas have nothing on the antics of the opera world. Roberto Alagna is the tenor who stormed off stage during "Aida" when audiences booed him. Then he staged protests in front of La Scala when mangement locked him out, saying quite reasonably that he'd quit. Now Alagna says he wasn't angry; he left the stage because he had low blood sugar. Mamma mia! What a baby.

Hannibal Lecter's Creator Must Be Mad

Mad that everyone has turned on him, that is. Once, Thomas Harris was wildly overpraised as one of the great thriller writers of all time. "Red Dragon" and "The Silence of the Lambs" were touted as modern masterpieces of horror. And "Silence" was turned into a blockbuster, Oscar-winning film that seemed to cement Harris among the gods. Then he kept writing. Now, several more movie adaptations have been flops and his books "Hannibal" and now "Hannibal Rising" have been pilloried as pathetic, laughaby bad works. This week, "Hannibal Rising" debuts at only #6 on the NYTimes bestseller list. Harris surely worked just as hard on these books as the others and he must be wondering, "What the hell happened?"

On the nonfiction list, Barack Obama is back on tiop with his "Audacity Of Hope." Every Presidential candidate seems to trot out a book these days and with "Hope" at #1, maybe Obama is the frontrunner after all. And while the movie version of "Charlotte's Web" is a flop, at least it's sending the EB White classic back onto the charts.

Son Of A "Jersey Boy"

Here's a sad little story. The son of one of the original Four Seasons haunts the Broadway house where "Jersey Boys" is playing to packed crowds. Unemployed, he tries to scalp tickets, sometimes argues with staff and complains bitterly (and apparently without justification) that his mom is being squeezed out of royalties from the show. By the way, the writer tosses in the idea that the Four Seasons have sold more than 200 million records. That hardly seems possible. Billboard says the Four Seasons have charted 22 albums and Frankie Valli seven solo CDs. The Four Seasons have 48 singles and Vallie 14. Of all of these, only the single "Grease" went platinum and only a handful of albums and singles went gold. With 89 charting albums and singles, a generous estimate would be 30 million copies sold in the US. Double it for the world and that's still only 60 million copies sold. Hey, that's a ton but where do they get 200 million copies from?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Weekend Box Office Estimates -- Will Smith Happy

Okay, Box Office Prophets finally has the weekend box office predictions based on the Friday numbers. They say "Charlotte's Web" is going to have a very strong family presence and have good legs. Having seen the film, which satisfies no one, I doubt that strongly. It opened weakly and will not do well, even though there's no pure little tyke movie left to come out this year. (Night at the Museum and Pursuit of Happyness and holdover Happy Feet are the closest ones, but they're not really for five year olds.) BOP also doesn't take into account the poisonous word of mouth that Eragon is going to have. Finally, they wrote "Will Smith's feel-good movie The Pursuit of Happyness shocks virtually everyone with a very impressive $9.2 million Friday, taking the top spot at the box office." It was no surprise if you read Popsurfing. The weekend Top 10 estimates from BOP based on Friday numbers:

1. The Pursuit Of Happyness -- $28.5 million
2. Eragon -- $23.5 million
3. Charlotte's Web -- $12.9 million
4. Happy Feet -- $8.5 million
5. The Holiday -- $8.3 million
6. Apocalypto --$7.6 million
7. Blood Diamond -- $6.6 million
8. Casino Royale -- $5.3 million
9. The Nativity Story -- $4.9 million
10. Unaccompanied Minors -- $3.8 million

Friday Box Office Numbers

Box Office Prophets and the movie industry websites Hollywood Reporter and Variety haven't given their weekend projections based on the Friday numbers yet. But The Numbers does have those amounts and I was right: The Pursuit of Happyness won Friday night with $9 million, Eragon was a close second with $8.6 million and Charlotte's Web was an out-and-out disaster with $3.4 million. (The near empty screening I attended at 10:10 p.m. apparently wasn't because the earlier screenings were filled with families. The trailer gave me a bad feeling - too obvious and heavy-handed. And let's face it: some books just aren't meant to be made into movies and the delicate voice of EB White's classic is one of them. Leave it alone.) Neither "Apocalypto" nor "The Holiday" is gonna shock anyone with long legs. And while Eragon was a close second, I assume word of mouth is going to be poisonous (my friend biboy called to say he'd seen it with his son and said the movie was AWFUL -- he couldn't emphasize it enough), while the word of mouth on "Happyness" should be good. And "Dreamgirls" is tearing it up on three screens. I'll post the weekend estimates when they arrive.

Billboard's Top 10 Albums Of The Year

Billboard polls all its staffers and does an annual top 10 list, along with listing a bunch of their Top 10 lists and the lists of various artists. It's always fun to scroll through all the lists and if you find someone with similar tastes, any of their picks you don't know can be a good bet.Here's the final list for this year.

1. Bob Dylan -- Modern Times (65 points)
2. Bruce Springsteen -- We Shall Overcome: Seeger Sessions (58 points)
3. Gnarls Barkley -- St. Elsewhere (53 pts.)
4. Arctic Monkeys -- Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (50 pts)
5. TV On The Radio -- Return To Cookie Mountain (47 points)
6. Tom Waits -- Orphans boxed set (39 pts -- is that better, gyrobo?)
7. The Hold Steady -- Boys and Girls in America (38 pts)
8. tie: Red Hot Chili Peppers -- Stadium Arcadium and Dixie Chicks -- Taking The Long Way (33 pts each)
9. tie: Tool -- 10,000 Days and The Beatles -- Love (27 pts)
10. Corinne Bailey Rae -- Corinne Bailey Rae (23 pts.)

"Day Break" and William Shatner's Game Show Cancelled

ABC has pulled the plug on William Shatner's game show "Show Me The Money" -- just days after ordering six more episodes, the teases. The muddled science-fiction show "Day Break" is also gone. (I almsot wrote SciFi show, but nowadays that would imply it was airing on the SciFi channel, so I changed it.) And NBC has cancelled a cop show they haven't even started airing yet called "Raines." Starring Jeff Goldblum, it's about a cop who imagines conversations with murder victims and "pairs" himself with them to solve the crime. These aren't supernatural visitations, apparently, just his mind's way of sifting through the evidence. In any case, it's gone, even though they've filmed seven episodes and plan to air them on Fridays. Those must have been some pretty hapless episodes (the pilot was filmed by Frank Darabont).

OJ Book Publisher Fired By FOX

Shaming Rupert Murdoch is truly an accomplishment and that's what Judith Regan has done with her sleazy OJ book. She was dumped last night at 7 p.m. from HarperCollins. It's unlcear whether all ties to FOX have been severed, but since this was so unceremonious, that's probably the case. Truly a bottom feeder, Regan produced the TV show "Growing Up Gotti," and a stream of tawdry titles like an upcoming Mickey Mantle bio disguised as a novel. She did a book with porn star Jenna Jameson; Jameson's image suffered from the connection. And where did Regan get her start? It couldn't be more telling: The National Enquirer. But the bottom line is that Regan makes money. She did massive bestsellers by Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern and many others when no one else would go near them. She'll be back.